MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Xiao Yunliang freed 24 days before jail sentence ends

Published by MAC on 2006-03-01

Xiao Yunliang freed 24 days before jail sentence ends

by China Labour Bulletin Press Release No. 12

1st March 2006

Prominent labour activist Xiao Yunliang was released from prison on 23 February, only 24 days before his four-year jail sentence ended.

China Labour Bulletin welcomes the release of Xiao, but the move just 24 days before the end of his sentence suggests there has been no change in the government's attitude towards labour activists in China. "Xiao's released only shortly before his term was completed shows that the Chinese government has not changed its hostile attitude towards workers' organisers in China," said CLB's director Han Dongfang.

Additional evidence of the authorities' insincere treatment of labour activists is the fact that Yao Fuxin is still in prison. Yao, together with Xiao, led around 2,000 workers from Liaoyang Ferroalloy Factory along with a further 15,000 workers from five other factories in Liaoyang in a series of large public demonstrations in March 2002. Yao is serving for a seven-year jail sentence and is not due to be released until March 2009.

Xiao was secretly detained on 20 March 2002 and then formally charged with the crime of "conducting an illegal assembly and demonstration."

Subsequently, on account of his alleged involvement in the banned China Democracy Party (CDP), the charge of "subversion" was brought against him. Yao has consistently denied any involvement in the CDP.

"Xiao and Yao were sentenced to jail on subversion charges, although they were only fighting for workers' rights. China claims to be promoting the rule of law and a harmonious and civil society, so it should stop cracking down on workers' organisers," said Han Dongfang.

The workers who took part in demonstrations in Liaoyang City, Liaoning Province, in northeastern China in 2002, were protesting against alleged corruption in the factory - which they argued was a direct cause of its bankruptcy - and calling for unpaid wages and other owed benefits, including pensions, to be paid to the workers.

Tried at the Liaoyang Intermediate People's Court on 15 January 2003, Xiao was sentenced to four years in prison and was originally due for release in March 2006. Like his fellow prisoner Yao Fuxin, he has been plagued by serious health problems throughout his imprisonment.

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